Sri Lanka

The Unique History Behind Sri Lanka’s Abandoned Rock Fortress Sigiriya

Sigiriya, a fortress palace built by a fierce king in the 5th century AD on the side of a massive rocky cliff overlooking the forests of central Sri Lanka, is as impressive today as it was then. Sigiriya, also known as “Lion Rock”, is probably Sri Lanka’s most photographed wonder.

The water stone garden, famous murals and palace ruins on the top of the mountain continue to attract people from all walks of life. Despite the folklore and many interesting facts about the rock that are known to the public, Sigiriya’s remarkable past and well-kept secrets continue to amaze tourists.

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The Fascinating History Underground Sigiriya

Sigiriya is located in the Matale District in the northern Central Province of Sri Lanka, not far from the modern town of Dambulla. It is a historical and archaeological site dominated by massive rocky columns towering over 180 meters.

An old Sri Lankan chronicle describes the place as once supporting a vast forest. After it was turned into a hill by storms and landslides, it was designated as the new capital by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD). On top of the rock, he built his palace and decorated its walls with colorful works of art. He carved a huge lion’s head in a flat area halfway up the rock as a doorway.

This impressive fortification was the seat of the Sinhalese kingdom until the defeat of the Kasyapa sect in AD 495. Since then, the capital has been moved from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa and other places. However, by the 12th century, Sri Lanka’s centralization began to erode. Eventually, once important centers of government such as Sigiriya gradually fell into disuse as the Sinhalese fled to the southwestern part of the island.

Today, Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best preserved examples of ancient city planning.

The Unsolved Mysteries of Sigiriya’s Defenses

Visitors to Sigiriya must use a drawbridge to cross a 15-foot-deep moat, which may have been crowded with crocodiles before entering the site. A 7-foot-high wall is said to surround the edge of the moat’s foundations. ù

Often, they built a canal around the fort and built a defensive wall behind it to attack invaders as they waded through the crocodile-infested waters. Historians and tourists visiting the ancient sites of Sigiriya are curious about the vanished fortifications. The lack of gatehouse protection for the drawbridge was one problem, the incomplete perimeter of the moat another.

Water gardens and boulder gardens, entertainment venues for kings

There are swimming pools on both sides of the main walkway to Sigiriya Rock. The length of each pool is proportional to its other half. Legend has it that King Kashyapa, who had 500 wives, built a “play pool” in the water garden so that he could watch his queen relax in the water all day long. But if the second pool is also set up in the same way, the effect will be counterproductive. If the rumors are true, he will build a high platform to enjoy the pool.

After exploring the water gardens at the rocky base of Sigiriya, visitors will arrive at the Megalithic Gardens. The symmetrical garden below is in stark contrast to the garden above. A network of routes enters and exits the area through rock arches formed at the boundary. One of the boulder gardens features a built-in amphitheater. Legend has it that King Kashyapa used this stage to entertain his subjects.

Sigiriya’s Murals and Their Symbolic Significance

All tourists who come to Sri Lanka wish to see the famous Sigiriya murals up close, also known as Sigiriya murals, on the famous Lion Rock. These writings are said to be more than a thousand years old and previously covered the entire mountain. To date, some 700 wall inscriptions, dating from the eighth to tenth centuries, have been translated.

Nearly 500 feet wide and 100 feet high, the Western Wall contains 500 murals that tell the story. One of the mysteries surrounding the frescoes is whether the monks deliberately made the female figures distracting. Some rumors say that the mural represents a unified Sri Lanka under Yaksha rule.

what’s left of lionsgate

The Lion Gate was originally located in the center of the courtyard, and now the mirror wall is connected to it. The two giant claws on either side of the stairwell are all that remains of the building. The lion’s head rests between its paws, and steps pass through its gaping mouth. On this rocky crag, kneeling guards must remain vigilant or risk falling to their death.

Huge rocks were lifted on the cleats and dumped on the attacking force below. The lack of bridges or overpasses on the road to Lions Gate was a major flaw in the design, they either didn’t exist at all or were removed long after Lions Head was removed.

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Visit Sigiraya Rock

The dry season lasts from late December to early April and is ideal for a trip to Sigiriya, with March having the sunniest weather with little chance of rain. Opening hours are 7am to 7pm daily. Tickets are about $30, so keep that in mind.

The ticket booth at Sigiriya Rock Fort is open daily from 6:30am to 6:00pm. Visitors can find it on a side street near the main entrance. Buy tickets before entering the complex, as tourists will be turned away if they still need to. Payment is by cash only, although there is an ATM next to the ticket office, don’t expect it to work.

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